Testicular cancer impacts the testicles which are part of the male reproductive system. Testicles produce male hormones and allow sperm to mature.
Types of Testicular Cancer
The vast majority (more than 90%) of testicular cancer begins in the germ cells, which are responsible for making sperm. There are two primary types of germ cell tumors (GCTs). (1)
Seminoma – This type of GCT grows slowly and tends to respond well to chemotherapy and radiation.
Non-seminoma – This type of GCT grows more rapidly and is less responsive to chemotherapy and radiation (2).
Some testicular cancers fall into another category altogether because they impact other cells in the body – including Leydig cells and Sertoli cells. For every type of testicular cancer, doctors will work to determine what stage of cancer each patient falls into and the best course of action for that particular case.
Risk Factors for Testicular Cancer
While rare amongst the population overall, testicular cancer is the most common cancer for young men (aged between 15 and 35) in the United States. (2, 3) Men with a family history of testicular cancer or that have a history of undescended testes are at a higher risk of developing testicular cancer.
Symptoms of Testicular Cancer (2, 3)
- A lump on the testicle
- Testicular swelling
- Pain in the testicle, groin, or scrotum
- A heavy feeling in the scrotum
- Male breast tenderness
Young men should be taught to perform testicular self-exams so that in the event that a lump or other change develops, it can be caught early. Even if your symptoms are not painful, you should still disclose them to your physician.
Keep in mind, that while the above symptoms can be indicators of testicular cancer, they can also indicate a less serious condition that’s easily treated. So, if you notice a lump, bump or discomfort – you don’t need to panic, but you shouldn’t ignore it. Catching testicular cancer early is a crucial part of securing effective treatment.
Treating Testicular Cancer
The good news is that when testicular cancer is caught early, it’s very treatable. A combination of the below treatments cures nearly all early stage tumors, and 85% of more advanced tumors. (2)
The treatment plan will of course vary from patient to patient depending on a variety of factors including the type and stage of cancer and the health of the patient.
Surveillance – Used primarily when testicular cancer is in a very early stage, this involves monitoring the development of the tumor through check-ups and continually reassessing the best course of action. (2)
Surgery – Often an orchiectomy is used for treating testicular cancer. It involves removing the entire affected testicle, tumor, and spermatic cord. In addition to removing the cancer, this procedure is also used to confirm the stage and cancer cell type. (2)
Radiation & Chemotherapy – This combination of cancer therapy is typically used if the testicular cancer has spread to other areas of the body, including nearby lymph nodes. (2)
The team at Virginia Urology can help with every stage of testicular cancer, from screening and diagnosis to surgery and treatment.